Common Cancers

Did you know that cancer signs and treatments are often similar for both people and pets? So the more knowledge we have about cancer, the better we can take care of our own health, and the people and pets that we love so dearly.

Early detection is critical in achieving successful treatment results.  Experts say that half of all pet cancers are curable if caught early. Early detection is critical for people, too.

Here is a list of cancers that are “shared,” or common to both pets and people. This table is meant to be an overview for information purposes. Please consult your physician or veterinarian with any questions.

CANCERIN PETSIN PEOPLE
CANCERIN PETSIN PEOPLE
BRAIN CANCER

Brain cancer is not uncommon in older dogs and cats, although the need for advanced imaging of the brain to detect a brain tumor means that it frequently goes undiagnosed.

Signs: The most common sign is seizures, especially in pets at least 5 years old.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgical removal, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and palliative treatment of symptoms.

Description: Primary brain tumors originate in the brain itself or in tissues close to it. They are less common than are secondary brain tumors, in which cancer begins elsewhere and spreads to the brain.

Signs: Signs can vary based on tumor's size, location and rate of growth and could include new or change in pattern of headaches, seizures, vision problems, confusion, personality changes are more .

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgery, radiation, stereotactic radiosurgery, targeted drug therapy, chemotherapy .**

FIBROSARCOMA

Description: Tumors derived from fibrous connective tissue frequently found in the mouths of dogs or in the skin.

Signs: Swelling on the body. For fibrosarcoma in the mouth, increased saliva production, foul odor.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgical removal, then possibly radiation or chemotherapy*. Little to no side effects from chemotherapy (could include loss of appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea, lethargy); short-term damage to skin with radiation.

Description: Tumors derived from fibrous connective tissue usually in adult males 30-55.

Signs: It can occur as a soft-tissue mass or as a primary or secondary bone tumor.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgical removal and adjunctive therapy such as radiation treatment and chemotherapy. Humans have more pronounced responses to chemotherapy than pets do.**

HERMANGIOSARCOMA

Description: Highly invasive cancer arising from blood vessels affecting dogs almost exclusively (rarely in cats).

Signs: Pale gums, weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy, collapse.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgical removal; chemotherapy*. Little to no side effects from chemotherapy (could include loss of appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea, lethargy).

Description: An aggressive cancer of the blood vessels; more than half originating in the spleen and affecting adults 50+. More commonly found in dogs than humans.

Signs: Abddominal pain or enlargement of the spleen.

Treatments/Side Effects: Combination of chemotherapy and surgical removal of the spleen (if affected).**

INTESTINAL CANCER

Description: Intestinal tumors found in older cats and dogs.

Signs: Weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, and anorexia.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgical removal of tumors and chemotherapy*. Little to no side effects from chemotherapy (could include loss of appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea, lethargy).

Description: Cancer of the colon is common and often begins as a polyp that can become cancerous. People over the age of 50 are advised to undergo colon cancer screening.

Signs: There are no signs in the early stages. Other signs could include changes in bowel habits, abdominal discomfort or rectal bleeding.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgical removal of the tumor; if the cancer has spread, chemotherapy** may be used alone or with surgery. Radiation may be used when the tumor has spread. Targeted drug therapy may also be used in combination with chemotherapy.

LUNG CANCER

Description: Lung cancer can usually be seen in older dogs, over ten years of age, and is more common in dogs than cats. Boxers have been found to be more more at risk than other breeds.

Signs: Difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, rapid breathing, low energy.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy*.

Description: Non-small cell lung cancer (about 85% of lung cancers in the U.S.) and small cell lung cancer accounts (15%). Small cell lung cancer results from smoking even more so than non-small cell lung cancer, and grows more rapidly and spreads to other parts of the body earlier than non-small cell lung cancer.

Signs: Coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, change in voice, coughing up phlegm or blood.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted treatments for non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer tends to be more responsive to chemotherapy**.

LYMPHOMA

Description: Cancer of the lymph system; common in cats (1 in 3 diagnoses of cancer in cats) and dogs.

Signs: Enlargement of one or more lymph nodes, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea.

Treatments/Side Effects: Chemotherapy* is frequently an effective treatment. Little to no side effects from chemotherapy (could include loss of appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea, lethargy).

Description: There are many subtypes of this cancer of the lymphatic system and two main groups: Hodgkin Lymphoma (which affects lymph nodes, liver, spleen and bone marrow) and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (in which a type of white blood cell undergoes mutations causing tumors).

Signs: HL – fever, fatigue, weight loss, itchy skin, night sweats. NHL – similar to HL and also swollen lymph nodes, chest pain, coughing, trouble breathing.

Treatments/Side Effects: Radiation, chemotherapy**, immunotherapy.

MAMMARY GLAND CARCINOMA (BREAST CANCER)

Description: Most common tumor in female dogs and third most common tumor in female cats; occurs in the mammary glands.

Signs: Lumps, masses, swelling, sore spots in the breast area.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgical removal of the mass and chemotherapy*. Little to no side effects from chemotherapy (could include loss of appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea, lethargy).

Description: Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women in North America.

Signs: Mass in the breast which could be hard, irregular in shape, non-mobile, may or may not be painful.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgical removal of the mass, radiation, and/or chemotherapy** depending on the stage of the cancer.

MAST CELL TUMOR

Description: Most common skin cancer in dogs; occasionally found in cats. Tumors occur in or just below the skin.

Signs: Pink or red bump on the skin; may be scabby.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgical removal, radiation, chemotherapy*. Little to no side effects from chemotherapy (could include loss of appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea, lethargy); short-term damage to skin with radiation.

Description: Rarely occurs in humans.

Signs: May appear as a lesion in skin.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgical removal with possible radiation or chemotherapy**.

MELANOMA

Description: Mass usually found in the mouth, between toes or on the skin of dogs; for cats, most frequently found in the iris (colored part of the eye).

Signs: Swelling or odor in the mouth; swelling on or between the toes.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgery to remove the mass sometimes followed by radiation immunotherapy and possibly chemotherapy*. Little to no side effects from chemotherapy (could include loss of appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea, lethargy); short-term damage to skin with radiation. ONCEPT Canine Melanoma Vaccine, is the first USDA-approved vaccine for treatment of cancer in animals or humans. It has been used in dogs with canine oral mleanoma to support surgery or radiation therapy.

Description: Life-threatening skin cancer, frequently the result of adolescent sun exposure.

Signs: Use the acronym ABCDE: A for asymmetrical mole; B for Borders that are irregular, C for colors (2 or more); D for diameter (look for larger moles); E for elevation (a raised mark).

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgical removal with interferon treatment, chemotherapy**, radiotherapy.

OSTEOSARCOMA (BONE CANCER)

Description: Bone tumors often seen in large breed dogs (rarely in cats).

Signs:Persistent pain, lameness, swelling near leg bones/joints.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgery, sometimes amputation, with chemotherapy* and sometimes radiation therapy. Little to no side effects from chemotherapy (could include loss of appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea, lethargy). Many animals handle amputation well.

Description: An aggressive bone cancer usually occurring in long bones; the 8th most common form of cancer in children although fairly rare.

Signs: Pain; affected bone may be more prone to fracture.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgery, sometimes with amputation, with chemotherapy**.

PROSTATE CANCER

Description: Cancer of the prostate gland, part of the male reproductive system. Less common in cats than dogs.

Signs: Difficulty urinating, ribbon-shaped stool, weight loss, pain in the prostate area.

Treatments/Side Effects: Radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Surgical removal of the prostate gland is difficult unrewarding because of the close proximity to the urethra.

Description: Cancer of the prostate gland which is located under the bladder in men.

Signs: Frequent or painful urination, difficulty holding back urination, painful ejaculation, blood in urine. Not all men experience symptoms, and signs can be detected by a doctor during a digital exam or PSA test.

Treatments/Side Effects: Many treatments including waiting/monitoring, surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy**, cryotherapy, proton beam therapy, targeted therapy.

TESTICULAR CANCER

Description: Sertoli cell tumors in the testicle of male dogs typically linked to undescended testicles, or benign seminoma tumors in male cats (malignant seminoma is very rare in cats.

Signs: Shrinkage of testicle, or one larger than the other, abdominal mass, male dog takes on feminine characteristics.

Treatments/Side Effects: Castration or removal of the testicles.

Description: Testicular cancer is rare compared with other types of cancer. The most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 35; highly treatable, even when cancer has metastasized.

Signs: Lump or enlargement in either testicle, ache in abdomen/groin, feeling of heaviness in scrotum.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy**.

TRANSITIONAL CELL CARCINOMA (BLADDER CANCER)

Description: Urinary bladder tumor.

Signs:Blood in the urine, painful urination, frequent urination and/or straining to urinate.

Treatments/Side Effects: Treated with chemotherapy* or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Little to no side effects from chemotherapy (could include loss of appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea, lethargy).

Description: Most are cancers originating from the cells composing the inner lining of the bladder. Frequently found in older adults.

Signs: Blood in the urine, painful urination, frequent urination, pain near kidneys.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy**, immunotherapy.

SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA

Description: Common tumor of the mouth; tumor of a kind of epithelial cell typically found in older cats.

Signs:Lesions on nose or ears, swelling of jaw or tongue, increased salivation, foul mouth odor.

Treatments/Side Effects: Surgical removal of small mass; combination therapy for larger masses.

Description: Commonly seen on the outer layer of the skin; many patients are older with fair skin and a history of frequent sun exposure.

Signs: Rough lesions on the skin; flat white patch in the mouth; lesion with scaly crust on the face neck, ears, arms; raised patch on anus or genitals.

Treatments/Side Effects: Laser therapy or cryosurgery.

 

*Dogs and cats generally tolerate chemotherapy much better than people do. More information can be found here. Please talk with your veterinarian if you have questions.

**Human side effects to chemotherapy may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fatigue.
  • Pain.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Sores in the mouth and throat.
  • Blood disorders.
  • Nervous system effects.
  • Changes in thinking and memory.
  • Sexual and reproductive issues

Human side effects to radiation therapy may include:

  • Damage to skin
  • Fatigue
  • Infertility
  • Swelling
  • Long-term effects could include hair loss, other cancers, fibrosis, salivary or tear glands producing less or no fluid

Every patient (human or animal) is different. We recommend you consult your physician with questions about your health, or your veterinarian/veterinary oncologist for all matters pertaining to your pet’s health. Our website also offers additional resources with links to more detailed information.